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Defence Ministry Blunder Led To Batti Blast

Sep 25, 2010 3:20:05 PM - thesundayleader.lk
Batticaloa Blast

Batticaloa Blast

  • Safety Standards Not Adhered To
  • An Accident Waiting To Happen

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema in Karadiyanaru

Negligence and mishandling of explosives have been attributed as the causes for the explosion at the Karadiyanaru Police Station on September 17. The explosion resulted in the deaths of 12 policemen, seven civilians and two Chinese nationals and left 44 injured.
Assistant Controller of Explosives for the districts of Batticaloa, Kilinochchi, Trincomalee and Mullaitivu, M.S. Mohomad Ikrima said that he has already handed over a ‘thorough report’ on the Karadiyanaru explosion to the Defence Ministry.
When asked as to what he believed caused the explosion, Ikrima said that negligence and mishandling of the explosives had caused the explosion. “I have learnt that the explosives have been loaded into the truck using shovels. There has also been black powder, which is a very sensitive substance that could spark at the slightest trigger,” he said.
Ikrima explained that he had issued the permit to Covec-China following approval received by the company from the Defence Ministry.
“Once the Defence Ministry approves, the permit is issued by the District Secretariat,” he said.
Ikrima had signed an order to issue explosives to the Chinese company on August 31, 2010, which Covec-China had collected on September 4.
The order had approved the issuance of 390 kg of dynamite, 2,000 detonators and 2,000 kg of Ammonium Nitrate.
There were three containers carrying explosives in the Karadiyanaru police premises at the time of the explosion.
As for the explosives in the other containers, Ikrima said he was unable to give the exact amounts of explosives in them, as the relevant companies were in the process of renewing their permits. A permit to hold explosives is issued for a period of six months.
“The permits of the other companies that owned containers had lapsed for several months. However, the other containers did not contain massive amounts of explosives, as they would have only had some left over explosives,” he said.
Meanwhile, senior police officers in Batticaloa on conditions of anonymity told The Sunday Leader that the Chinese company had not followed the required safety precautions in storing the explosives and that it was the fault of the Defence Ministry for granting permission to store the explosives.
“When a company comes with Defence Ministry approval we cannot question them and there are officials to ensure that the safety precautions are adhered to and clearly that had not happened in this case,” the police officers said.
When Ikrima was asked about this allegation, he said that he was in-charge of checking if the safety precautions have been followed.
“The necessary safety precautions were followed. According to the regulations, the explosives have to be stored amidst concrete barriers or in metal stores. The Chinese company had the explosives stored in containers as it is part of a mobile operation,” he said.
Safety precautions in storing explosives have been outlined in the Explosives Ordinance of 1956.
However, Ikrima reiterated that the problem was not with the storing of the explosives, but the negligence in handling them.
Police Spokesperson SP Preshantha Jayakody said that five CID teams were still carrying out investigations into the Karadiyanaru explosion and that they were awaiting the Government Analyst’s report.